Alfonso Ordóñez (Seville, 1938) has had no choice but to be a bullfighter and an artist; not in vain is he the son of the matador Niño de la Palma and the dancer and actress Consuelo Reyes, and little brother (the boy) of the great Antonio Ordóñez, Cayetano, Juan, Pepe and Ana Jesús, all bullfighters except the girl, who inherited her mother’s artistic gifts.
Today, at 82 years old, he is the senior bullfighter of Seville (a short career as a bullfighter and more than 30 years as a first-row junior) and proudly walks that innate air, with an overwhelming service record behind him that denotes that he has been one of the greats. Not in vain has he fought under the orders of 114 matadors, 41 bullfighters and a rejoneador.
Ordóñez is a walking encyclopedia of bullfighting and personal experiences, which crowd together and, at times, intermingle in a cascade of memories of a lifetime in which his family and the bull are the protagonists.
“My father was a sententious genius, a bohemian artist, very fond of flamenco, but not a womanizer,” Ordóñez comments. “And my mother, an only daughter, very pretty, good, innocent and not very talkative; although the one who was special was my maternal grandmother, —he continues—, who hunted them on the fly and insisted on accompanying my parents on their honeymoon to America, because she wanted to visit the grave of Rodolfo Valentino, a very handsome actor from the time, although I think that what he did not want was to separate from his daughter ”.
“I became subordinate because it was very cold and did not transmit enough”
Of that marriage between a bullfighter and an actress starring in three films – the best known, Little goat that shoots to the mountain, 1926— five male children were born who wore the costume of lights: Cayetano, Antonio and Pepe, alternative matadors, and Juan and Alfonso, bullfighters with horses.
“We had no choice but to be bullfighters because of the environment in which we lived,” continues Ordóñez. “But my father insisted that we have a training and forced all of us to study high school.”
Precisely when Alfonso approved the third course, he received as a reward to attend the alternative of his brother Antonio, which was held on June 28, 1951 in Madrid. He remembers that when he left the plaza, his father asked him his opinion about the performance of the new matador, and his answer was: “I thought that I too want to be a bullfighter.” “You are going to try,” El Niño de la Palma replied.
And the youngest of the family tried, but not before enrolling in agricultural expertise out of parental obligation, although everything remained in a pure process before heading his future in the arena.
Alfonso Ordóñez made his debut on October 7, 1954, at a festival in the Madrid town of Colmenar de Oreja in which the five brothers did the paseo for the first and only time.
“Luis Miguel Dominguín acted that afternoon as a banderillero in my gang dressed as a civilian,” Ordóñez recalls. “I think he did it to appear and appear in the photos, because he was very superb inside and outside the square, but also an excellent person.”
The debutante cut a tail that afternoon of his presentation; the following year he made his debut without picadors in Pontevedra, and in 1956, in Tudela, he performed with horses.
But the new bullfighter soon understood that reality did not match his dreams.
He says that he went with his father to a grocery store and felt unable to measure up to a wild cow. His father asked him for the crutch and drew a bunch of passes. It was the first time that the applicant had seen his father fight, and that morning, Alfonso Ordóñez acknowledges, he understood that it would not be easy for him to succeed dressed in lights.
“The best blow is the one that doesn’t happen”
In fact, although he cut off an ear in his presentation in Seville, on May 31, 1959, before Clemente Tassara’s steers, he passed through the 1960 San Isidro Fair without pain or glory; he assumed he was not broadcasting enough, and that same year, in Utrera, he announced his retirement. “I took off because it was very cold,” he adds.
During the following 18 months he worked on a farm owned by his brother Antonio, until in 1962 he decided to return to the arena dressed in silver.
There began a long and fruitful trajectory. More than thirty years under the command of some figures, such as his own brother, Paquirri, Curro Romero and José Fuentes, and many others up to a total of 114 matadors, 41 bullfighters and a rejoneador, a record, without a doubt, in history of bullfighting.
He says that his teacher with the flags was Pepote Bienvenida, although he always felt more comfortable with the cape.
“The best blow is the one that is not given, and all work of the subordinate must be for the benefit of his killer,” says Ordóñez.
“And that lesson I learned from my brother Antonio. In 1968, in Las Ventas, going with him, I stopped a starting bull and on the fourth set he hooked me and gave me a tremendous beating. I nailed flags with monosabio pants and ended up with a ground body. At the house of another brother, Antonio came to worry about my condition and asked me: ‘How much have you earned today?’ You know it, the same as the whole gang, I replied. “Well, I have earned 2,750,000 pesetas, so let the natives hit me.” What a beautiful compliment he said to me, and he was right: always for the benefit of the matador ”.
He retired in the Malaga square of Mijas in 1993, and, since then, he has combined the continuous review of his experiences with his work as presidential advisor at La Maestranza in Seville.
After his parents and brothers passed away, Alfonso is the only direct member of the family who maintains his bullfighting legacy.
His paternal grandfather was a policeman who ended up in Ronda because of his profession and set up a shoe store that he called La Palma. From there his son Cayetano took his bullfighter nickname, Niño de la Palma, the creator of a dynasty that today the great-nephews of Alfonso Ordóñez, Francisco and Cayetano Rivera, continue.
“We get along very well,” he says. “Francisco is more expressive, and Cayetano, quieter.”